Starting to Cycle

Confident Cycling

Some tips for new city cyclists:

Remember that you have the same right to be on the road as any other user.
Do not feel that you have to get out of their way. Be confident and assertive
while being polite and non-aggressive.

Position yourself well on the road. Normally you should be about 1 metre away
from the kerb or from parked cars, not right up against them. This makes you visible; gives you
space to move into if you need to; keeps you out of reach of drivers who open their car doors
without looking and avoids glass etc which may be at the road
side. Do not weave in and out of parked cars. When traffic is very slow moving,
and when approaching junctions, take up a position in the middle of a lane, like
other vehicles. This ensures that you are clearly visible to the person behind
and that you have space to manoeuvre to where you want to go.

Use cycle facilities with discernment. There are some excellent facilities
in London which will make your life much easier. There are also some terrible
ones which may even put you in danger. There is no legal obligation to use them,
so pick and choose what works for you.

Make eye contact with drivers. Particularly at junctions, this helps to ensure
that the person has seen you and takes you into account.

Obey the law and the highway code. Firstly because it will win you and fellow
cyclists respect from other road users. Secondly because cyclists cannot expect
the same rights on the road as other users without taking the same responsibilities.

Assume that drivers won’t indicate before turning, won’t stop immediately the
lights change to red, etc.

Beware of lorries and other large vehicles, especially when they are turning left. The driver has a
blind spot down both sides of the vehicle. Do not put yourself in danger by
riding where he /she cannot see you.

If you want to read more, the standard book on skills for cycling
in traffic is "Cyclecraft" by John Franklin, published by the Stationery
Office (1997, £9.99 paperback).

Equipment

Start simple until you really know what you need.

Obviously you need a bike. The important things are that the brakes must be
in excellent working order, and the tyres should be in good condition and pumped
up hard.

A good lock, preferably a D-lock, is essential if you are going to stop anywhere.

Lights are extremely important for your safety as well as to comply with the
law. Remember that you may want them if the light fades because of bad weather,
as well as at night.

There are arguments both for and against wearing a helmet. If you decide to
wear one, make sure that it is tight enough to stay on if you come off the bike
and that it is positioned correctly, well down over your forehead. A good tip
is to have the helmet far enough forward that you can just see it when you look
up.

Parking your Bike

When you park your bike, make sure that the frame is locked to an immovable object. If you use
a pole, check that your bike can’t be lifted up and over the top. Also make sure that both wheels
are locked to something, particularly
if they are quick-release. If your saddle is quick-release, lock this
up or take it with you.

Remove any parts which are easy to detach – lights, pump, speedo, panniers,
etc. Even if they’re not valuable, you can’t predict what the local drunk is
going to take a fancy to.

Planning a Route

Excellent, free maps of London are available,
showing all the existing cycle paths to help with planning your route. There is also an on-line journey planner. Being
sure of where you are going will increase your confidence on the road.

If you would like some support from an experienced cyclist, we may be able
to help. Please contact us.

More Information

LCC publish an A5 booklet, "Getting Started on a Bike". It can be downloaded from their website – http://www.lcc.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=406 – or printed copies are available from Ché Sutherland at LCC.

They also have a range of other booklets which may be of interest to you, including "Cycle Sense", "Cycling to Work", "Buying a Bike" and "Cycling with Children". See the full range at http://www.lcc.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=111.

The Rough Guide to Cycling in London (2003) is free, with 100 or so pages of information and advice about cycling in London. It’s available from many bike shops, and also from public locations such as libraries. Or you can ask for a free copy when you join LCC, if you’re not already a member!

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